MY BROTHER STANDS behind the microscope, his eye pressed to the eyepiece. The light in the microscope platform casts strange shadows on his face, making him look years older.
“This is definitely it,” he says. “The attack simulation serum, I mean. No question.”
“It’s always good to have another person verify,” Matthew says.
We were introduced to it as definitely true, the plot proceeded from definitely true, then another older Erudite said it was definitely true, Tris has repeatedly said the fact it’s true justifies her killing everyone there, and now at the tail end of the book he’s saying that huh, I guess it’s true.
I am standing with my brother in the hours before he dies. And he is analyzing serums. It’s so stupid.
I KNOW IT IS SO WHY IS IT HAPPENING
Matthew wants Caleb to repeat the “activation code” for the serum, and Caleb’s all insulted anyone could think he wouldn’t remember a string of numbers, and Matthew says his brain won’t be working so great as he’s dying, and why don’t they just write the code on his arm?
“I keep thinking about when we were young and we played ‘Candor,’” he says. “How I used to sit you down in a chair in the living room and ask you questions? Remember?”
“Yes,” I say. I lean my hips into the lab table. “You used to find the pulse in my wrist and tell me that if I lied, you would be able to tell, because the Candor can always tell when other people are lying. It wasn’t very nice.”
Caleb laughs. “That one time, you confessed to stealing a book from the school library just as Mom came home—”
“And I had to go to the librarian and apologize!” I laugh too. “That librarian was awful. She always called everyone ‘young lady’ or ‘young man.’”
“Oh, she loved me, though. Did you know that when I was a library volunteer and was supposed to be shelving books during my lunch hour, I was really just standing in the aisles and reading? She caught me a few times and never said anything about it.”
This seems so exactly like what kids in this society would do that I won’t even complain much about how it was never so much as referenced previously.
They decide to play at being Candor again. Her brother wants to know if she really forgives him.
I have been able to be kind and pleasant to him because every time I think of what happened in Erudite headquarters, I immediately push the thought aside. But that can’t be forgiveness—if I had forgiven him, I would be able to think of what happened without that hatred I can feel in my gut, right?
Or maybe forgiveness is just the continual pushing aside of bitter memories, until time dulls the hurt and the anger, and the wrong is forgotten.
For Caleb’s sake, I choose to believe the latter.
“Yes, I have,” I say. I pause. “Or at least, I desperately want to, and I think that might be the same thing.”
I think the one saving grace of this book is that when the narration isn’t telling me something is right or wrong, the characters feel like real, if not particularly well-adjusted, people. This is all fucked up. Caleb is pressuring her into forgiveness, though I don’t think he realizes it any more than she does. And she’s struggling because she doesn’t want to hate him, but on the other hand she’s not at all ready to actually forgive him, and this is the end result.
Tris then asks him exactly why he’s doing this, and he finally says that yes, he feels guilt, and it seems like it’s for everything and not just betraying her. Well, that’s a decentish reason. I mean, if there were other options, he should be discouraged from killing himself, but if they need someone to die, better it be the guy who did terrible things and wants to atone.
Then suddenly they hear there’s a lockdown going into effect right now. Matthew says that he doesn’t know why but it means their only chance is to act immediately, while everyone’s running around getting ready.
We then go to Whetstone, possibly the cause of this lockdown with his btw inoculate yourself warning, who’s chatting with Peter the still not dead why is he not dead what does he add about the fact Peter didn’t take the inoculation, and asks if he went with Tobias in the hopes of getting the memory serum. Peter decides attacking him to fight over the memory serum seems a better idea, despite the fact that he’ll get free mindwiping if he just heads to the city/back to the lab, depending on how much he’s figured out.
Tobias does this whole speech about how Peter’s not really tough, just cruel, and he’s better at that too but also a better person because “sometimes” he doesn’t pick the sadistic option, while Peter is just evil.
“I want the serum because I’m sick of being this way,” he says. “I’m sick of doing bad things and liking it and then wondering what’s wrong with me. I want it to be over. I want to start again.”
That sure is a motivation that might have made sense had Peter’s characterization ever made sense. First Peter’s just sadistic, then he has ~a code he lives by~, now he’s racked with guilt?
Tobias then lampshades that he has no reason to stop Peter mindwiping himself and there’s no point to this fight at all. They get going again.
The chapter ends and we’re back to Tris! It’s hard, but you can tell the two apart because more interesting things usually happen with Tris. There’s a bunch of honestly not bad chaos and thinking on her feet. Then she suddenly decides that she needs to die instead of her brother. Her terrible, terrible brother who has nothing to live for anyway.
“I might survive the death serum,” I say. “I’m good at fighting off serums. There’s a chance I’ll survive. There’s no chance you would survive.
What I like best about this is even aside from the fact basic logic tells us the different serums work differently, what with one of them being a goddamn computer program, Tris actually knows this personally. She had a massive reaction to the happyhappy serum to the point they assumed overdose, so she’s either normal and the guy screwed up the dose or he didn’t and she’s just extra sensitive to that one. She also was completely susceptible to the fear serum, it’s the simulation aspect she resists.
Tris is above average at simulation resistance – I’d honestly just go with her somehow having a doubled copy of the resistance gene since that one seems to specifically govern being aware it’s a simulation, maybe her mom’s family was the descendant of some other experiment that fell apart – and seems to be normal at truth serum (she honestly didn’t do better than Tobias, she was just better at dodging, plus she had advance warning and knew what issue she’d need to hide), normal to susceptible at fear serum (she didn’t go crazy from it, but she had experience with lower doses and given advance warning and was still traumatized) then susceptible to extra susceptible to happyhappy serum. From this, we can conclude almost nothing about her ability to handle death serum – and what I would guess, looking at that list? She’s susceptible to very susceptible, possibly more sensitive than average. Tris is best at resisting the simulations, ie, the thing she specifically has a gene to do, and is somewhat good at fighting the truth serum, which is a very targeted effect forcing you to do something. She doesn’t seem to have any advantage for the general ones. So, even assuming the death serum is some brain effect that could be resisted rather than, say, cyanide gas, it’s more likely Tris has no advantage in the matter.
If Tris was supposed to be the chosen one, this should’ve gone differently. The reason she’s dopey from the happy serum is they injected her, she was all LOLZ I DUN CARE I IS DAUNTLESS FIGHTER I PUNCH WHAT I WANT, and they gave her a second (or third…) dose to get her to stop talking about how she was going to break Peter’s nose. She’s initially terrified to go under the honesty serum but finds it isn’t working at all, she just doesn’t lie because she was there to tell the truth anyway, and this also makes her choice to tell about Will even stronger, since she wouldn’t have had to fight to keep it in but fight to admit it.
But that would require the three books to have been planned in advance, and Insurgent made it clear the author wasn’t up to planning a single line in advance.
Back to Tris being stupid, she then takes Caleb as a hostage, and apparently no one recognizes Caleb and is all why the fuck should we care.
“If I don’t survive,” I say, “tell Tobias I didn’t want to leave him.”
“I just refuse not to be an idiot. Fuck Erudite and their ‘logic’ and ‘reason’ and ‘not doing random shit for stupid reasons’. This may take my life, but I will die as someone the Erudites will never want to have on their side! That’ll teach that stupid choosing test to give me Erudite as an option!!!”
Clutching the explosives and detonator to my chest with my free hand, I shoot one guard in the leg and the other in the chest.
The one I shot in the leg reaches for his gun, and I fire again, closing my eyes after I aim. He doesn’t move again.
I do like that the author has stopped with the headshots. This is a much better way for Tris to act.
I hear a spraying sound and know that the death serum is floating through the air, but the guards are behind me, and I don’t have time to put on the suit that will delay its effects.
I don’t think the guards are going to go in anywhere with
magic cyanide gas death serum in the first place.
I also know, I just know, that I can survive this.
And then we leave what’s possibly Tris’ famous last words (“Why is this engraved on her tombstone?” “Tris would’ve wanted everyone to know she died as she lived: being a fucking moron.”) for the whetstone that does not seem to have done a good job of making her sharp at all.
Come to think of it, if Tobias was there covering her instead of whatever the fuck he’s doing in Chicago, she’d have had time to put the suit on. Admittedly, he might have objected, but he’s not really that bright either and might have been convinced by her “I can tots resist this” thing.
“I’m just going to walk in,” I say. “I’m her son.”
“You also betrayed her and left the city when she forbade anyone from doing that,” he says, “and she sent people after you to stop you. People with guns.”
Oh, Peter. It doesn’t justify how you’re still not dead, but it is nice to get a bit of intelligence in this book.
Tobias just ignores this, so Peter says that as soon as they start firing, he’s stealing the serum and booking it. Again, as far as he knows they’re memory-seruming the entire place, so why doesn’t he just book it now and wait for the free breathable version?
“I don’t expect anything more.”
He is a strange sort of person.
Aside from the not getting that there’s other sources of memorywipe goodness, no, he’s the only one of you behaving rationally.
“What are you doing holding a gun, Grace?” I say. I’ve never known an Abnegation to pick up a weapon.
“No faction customs anymore,” she says. “Now I get to defend myself. I get to have a sense of self-preservation.”
“Good,” I say, and I mean it. Abnegation was just as broken as the other factions, but its evils were less obvious, cloaked as they were in the guise of selflessness. But requiring a person to
disappear, to fade into the background wherever they go, is no better than encouraging them to punch one another.
Well, that was a jumble.
Abnegation weren’t banned from picking up weapons, because they were entirely capable of doing so in the first and only halfway decent book, they just didn’t have weapons to do it with during the attack. Also, Abnegation wasn’t required to only fade into the background, because also they ran the city and also also they had their own area where they got to be more open.
“You have a message for me, Tobias?”
“The people outside have no messages for us,” I say, moving closer to her. “They wanted to take away the memories of everyone in this city. They believe there is no reasoning with us, no appealing to our better natures. They decided it would be easier to erase us than to speak with us.”
Um, not exactly.
They believe the only way the experiments can run is by keeping those inside unaware of how fucked up the outside is, and that’s only going to be more true for the faction experiment where it’s a society that’s totally different than any outside society.
Whether or not it was a good idea to cut all contact (hint: no, you fucking idiots) this has never been about thinking they couldn’t reason with you and you damn well know that.
“I came to make you drink this,” I say.
She looks at the vial, and I think I see tears in her eyes, but it could just be the light.
“I thought it was the only way to prevent total destruction,” I say. “I know that Marcus and Johanna and their people are going to attack, and I know that you will do whatever it takes to stop them, including using that death serum you possess to its best advantage.”
Because removing Marcus and talking to the sanest person in the entire series is obviously not an option. No, go remove the person who would only use the death serum in self-defense.
She says the factions are evil. We have never actually gotten any explanation for why she feels this way.
“The reason the factions were evil is because there was no way out of them,” I say. “They gave us the illusion of choice without actually giving us a choice. That’s the same thing you’re doing here, by abolishing them. You’re saying, go make choices. But make sure they aren’t factions or I’ll grind you to bits!”
This is a terrible analogy because what he’s really arguing for is the right to choose to give up choice and prevent anyone else from ever having that choice.
Nothing is actually stopping people from living their lives as before. She’s just banned the tribal colors. No one has barred Erudites from the library or Dauntless from being reckless idiots 24/7. She isn’t following Candors around to make sure they’re not being honest. She definitely didn’t arm and pressgang Amity.
Now, possibly the faction setup had advantages – maybe the structure helped some people, it’s not clear. But restarting the faction system definitely includes the part about exiling failures to slums and starving them to death, and all the factions we see in the present day are dysfunctional as a group.
Also, it’s totally possible to be in favor of people having choices without being in favor of the choice to drink lead paint. It wouldn’t be hypocritical for her to want people to be able to choose their lives in general but think a couple choices have proven to be horrible ideas and ban those. It’s like how you can think marijuana should be legal while still banning meth and PCP.
Realizing this is not a book to discuss philosophy, she instead asks why he never said he felt like this. This is an extremely good point. Tobias claims he was afraid of her, but this is bullshit. He goes on to insist that “He was a tyrant in our house and now you’re a tyrant in this city, and you can’t even see that it’s the same!” because obviously taking over the government is exactly like beating your wife.
The fact is, Tobias clearly wasn’t afraid of her all that much because his final act in the last book is to go against what she wants to happen. Sure, he doesn’t tell her directly and then goes right to pretending he’s on her side while undermining her, but Tobias dealing with everything through passive-aggression doesn’t make it her fault – it’s his behavior that was the problem here.
I am about to say that it’s the easiest way, the best way, maybe the only way that I can trust her.
If I erase her memories, I can create for myself a new mother, but.
But she is more than my mother. She is a person in her own right, and she does not belong to me.
I do not get to choose what she becomes just because I can’t deal with who she is.
There’s nothing even to praise here. Tris feels sick that for a second, she wanted to send her brother into a suicide mission. Tobias realizes at the last second it’s wrong to murder his mom. He doesn’t even admit that it’s murder we’re talking about.
“No, I came to give you a choice.”
This is technically a lie. He has suddenly decided to give her a choice, he came intending to erase her memory because she wasn’t perfect.
“I thought about going to see Marcus tonight, but I didn’t.” I swallow hard. “I came to see you instead because . . . because I think there’s a hope of reconciliation between us. Not now, not soon, but someday. And with him there’s no hope, there’s no reconciliation possible.”
This is incredibly creepy. Not only was he planning to mindwipe her and try again for not being exactly what he wanted, but now he says the reason he picked her to murder is that she’s better than the other person, so really, it was her not being horrible enough that would’ve gotten her punished.
“It’s not fair for me to give you this choice,” I say. “But I have to.
I hope to god Tobias doesn’t survive the book.
You can lead the factionless, you can fight the Allegiant, but you’ll have to do it without me, forever. Or you can let this crusade go, and . . . and you’ll have your son back.”
It’s lucky I really can’t hate you more, Tobias, or I’d muster additional anger over the fact the factionless were absolutely in the right to take over after the abuses they suffered. But you’re already dead to me, so whatever.
Emotional blackmail works and his mom abandons the city and all the people depending on her to lead them and protect them from starving in ghettos again.